1911 Dursley Pedersen Cantilever 3-Speed No 4 Gents
Frame No 6224-4
The Dursley Pedersen did not make enough of an impact on the extremely competitive bicycle market in the Edwardian era when it was made, with the result that its production run was cut short. However, a hundred years later, the model has become one of the most sought-after vintage bicycles among collectors. Not only is it delightfully eccentric to look at, but its lightweight frame makes it easy to use and the innovative saddle design makes it the most comfortable old bicycle to ride.
This particular machine was restored thirty years ago by well-known Brighton bicycle builder Les Rigden at his workshops in Upper Gardner Street in the historic ‘lanes’ area in the heart of Brighton. Using a low-bake oven, the frame was repainted in maroon; all nickel parts were re-plated; the saddle was re-strung and fitted with a reproduction removable leather cover. It is fitted with 26″ Westwood rims. The rare DP three-speed hub, and all other mechanical parts, were fully serviced. The mudguards were not repainted, so as well as shiny nickel and frame, it has an attractive patina to it too.
The previous owner mostly used the bike for static displays since having it restored, so it has had very little use since its renovation. As a result it is still in superb condition, and ready to ride.
It sports a top-of-the-range Lucas ‘KORA’ (King of the Road) front lamp, which is stamped ‘212’ (meaning February 1912), brass inflator pump, brass bell and saddle bag.
1910 DURSLEY-PEDERSEN CATALOGUE
The DURSLEY-PEDERSEN CYCLE Co
London Office & Showrooms:
188 Gray’s Inn Rd, London W.C
The 1880s and 1890s saw the unstable ordinary or ‘penny farthing’ giving way to the chain-driven smaller wheeled safety bicycle. Mikael Pedersen – a Danish inventor who by 1893 was living in Dursley, Gloucestershire – took out a patent in the same year for a very different design of bicycle weighing only nineteen pounds.
Pedersen had been a cyclist for twenty years and had found seats very unsatisfactory. He therefore developed a hammock type saddle and tried fitting this to current frames before devising his own frame to carry the saddle. The first machine had hickory wood stays, and it is said that these were bound to the joints with fisherman’s twine. All later models used metal tubing, sometimes of remarkable lightness.
Pedersen did his best from 1893 to 1899 to interest cycle manufacturers in his machine, but with limited success. Critics said it lacked lateral strength, its fixed handlebar and saddle heights were inconvenient and its price was too high. However, others praised its strength, lightness, robustness and comfort.
Production of machines in Dursley began in 1897, while other companies made them under licence. In 1899 he joined forces with Robert and Charles Lister to create the Dursley Pedersen Cycle Company. Sales never reached predicted levels as prices were always high compared to other makes – in 1903 when a B.S.A. gents bicycle could be bought for £3, the cheapest Pedersen was £17-17-0. Most machines were therefore bought by the well-to-do.
Pedersen invented a 3-speed hub gear in 1902 and this was put on production models in 1903. Pedersen modified the friction clutch for over a year before he turned to toothed drive. The long delay led to voluntary liquidation in 1905 and a take-over by R.A. Lister and Co. Pedersen then had little to do with the machine but draw royalties. The manufacture of Pedersen cycles ceased in Dursley in 1914 although they were still sold, and perhaps made, in London until 1922.
THE DURSLEY PEDERSEN SADDLE
1912 JOE LUCAS KING OF THE ROAD FRONT LAMP
DURSLEY PEDERSEN THREE-SPEAD GEAR
LES RIGDEN CYCLES
1st Floor, 3&4 Upper Gardner St,
Brighton, BN1 4AN
Les Rigden built and restored classic lightweights from his ‘workshop’ above a shop in Upper Gardner Street close to an historic area of Brighton known as the lanes and close to the station. Entrance was through a small green door with a 49d crank as a handle, up some rickety wooden stairs with a rope for a hand rail and a bell under one of them to warn Les of your presence.
Once upstairs the whole workshop was full of interesting items as well as frames and bikes Les was always busy but still had time for a chat, his work was faultless and to a very high standard.
He had been a member of Camberley wheelers when he was younger and was friends with Frank Colden, BAR winner in 1962. In early life Les had been a printer but his love of bikes won him over and he decided on a career shift in 1973. Initially he specialised in restoring classic frames to a very high standard and soon earned a reputation for high quality work which was worth waiting for as these things couldn’t be rushed in his eyes.
After some eight to nine years restoring and selling bikes he got the framebuilding itch and started to create a small number of very personalised frames for customers. He created some very intricate lugs, cut his own headbadges and would engrave the owners name on the top eyes. He also produced a short-wheelbase frame with Hellenic seat stays and the seat tube canted forward at the bottom to join the down tube several centimeters in front of the bottom bracket. He then added a further tube from the bottom bracket to the seat tube some half-way up to triangulate thus stiffening the bottom bracket area. This build entailed some acute mitreing but allowed the rear wheel to sit nearly up to the BB shell. *
The Dursley Pedersen marque has no connection with my home town of Brighton apart from this particular machine’s 1980s restoration by Les Rigden.
However, I did find an interesting photo (below) of a 1914 Dursley Pedersen fitted with a Wall Autowheel, which took part in a London-to-Brighton Veteran Motorcycle Run in the 1950s. (And I subsequently discovered who owned it).
Dursley-Pedersen history with thanks to http://www.livinggloucester.co.uk
Illustrations and catalogues with thanks to Veteran Cycle Club
Les Rigden history – http://www.classiclightweights.co.uk/builders/rigden-builders.html
Mads Rasmussen’s Dursley-Pedersen website is definitely worth a visit –